I recently finished Uncle Tom’s Cabin, as a fan of history and morose literature, I really enjoyed this read. During an unfortunate period of our history, Stowe took an initiative in the fight for abolition and the equality of humanity in the U.S. This book was written over a decade befor the Emancipation Proclamation, and I’m sure her writing made a strong fight in the abolitionist movement.
Prior to reading this, I had always heard allusions to ‘Uncle Toms’ being an African American taking a subservient stance toward Caucasians. I feel the book had a completely different point- a point of forgiveness and kindness. The atrocities Uncle Tom experienced never faltered his Christian beliefs and his hope that there was a chance of goodness in everything. As each episode he went through became worse and worse, his love and drive to ‘save’ everyone became stronger.
The book begins with Tom’s owners, the Shelby’s, selling Tom and Henry as a financial decision to help their farm. Tom submitted to the situation, but Eliza, took her son, Henry, and fled North in hopes of Freedom in Canada.
Tom was taken to sale at an auction in New Orleans and along the way a wealthy man named Augustine St. Claire bought him as a driver and caretaker of his daughter, Eva. Eva was a delightful girl and as the story drew on it was apparent she was ill and would soon be lost. Tom enjoyed Eva and her interest in his bible and before she passed away she declared she would be spending the rest of her time in heaven and wished all the people in her life would remember her and strive to treat each other kindly, quit enslaving people and meet her in heaven when their time on Earth was finished. Upon her death, St. Claire announced he would free Tom and the other slaves, but his life was taken in a pub before he could make the necessary legal provisions to free his slaves. His wife sent most of the slaves to auction and Tom was bought by Simon Legree. Legree was an evil man and used two overseers who he pitted against each other. He was harsh in his treatment of the slaves he owned and resolved that there would be no talk of God or the bible on his land. He decided one way or another he would beat the religion out of Tom.
Eliza’s story took a different path as she fled North. She was taken in by a family of Quakers and soon found her husband, George, miraculously coming to the same family on his own path to freedom. They joined together and found freedom in Canada and lived happily ever after.
This was a fairly sad book, in looking back on the common treatment of slaves in the South, and the indifference of the Northerners. A repeating theme was that many Southern farmers said they planned on freeing their slaves, but this usually was put off too long and their deaths brought their slaves to the auction block to continue their servitude at another plantation.
I’ll finish with my favorite quote of the book, which was from a conversation with Tom and St. Claire –
St. C- “Why Tom, you couldn’t have possibly have earned, by your work, such clothes and such living as I have given you.”
Tom- “Knows all that, Mas’r St. Claire; Mas’r’s been too good; but, Mas’r I’d rather have poor clothes, poor house, poor everything, and have ’em mine, than have the best, and have them any man else’s, – I had so, Mas’r; I think it’s nature, Mas’r.